Chinese Food On Christmas

Posted on December 28th, 2011 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

When asked during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings how she spent Christmas Day, Judge Elena Kagan responded, “… like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.” It’s become something of an inside joke that this is how Jews spend Christmas, eating out at Chinese restaurants and going to the movies.  Despite the fact that today there are many more dining options available on Christmas, the practice of eating out in Chinese restaurants endures as a cherished tradition to be shared with family and friends.

The JMM’s recently opened exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity, provides scholarly context for the connection between Jews and Chinese food. The Jewish attraction to Chinese food to Jews has roots in the early 20th century when Jewish immigrants lived in close proximity to Chinese restaurants inNew York’sLower East Side. Despite the fact that the restaurants were not kosher, the use of pork and seafood was well disguised in sauces and there was no worry of mixing meat and dairy (thus leading to the notion of “safe treyfe”). As Jews moved out to the suburbs, Chinese restaurants followed recognized the loyalty of this particular clientele.

Tearoom in Chinatown, New York City, N.Y. Feb. 18, 1903. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. CP 33.2011.4

The Christmas/Chinese food connection has been highlighted in comedy routines and pop culture references and has even been satirized in song.Baltimore’s own Brandon Walker had a YouTube hit with his 2007 music video, “Chinese Food on Christmas” that included these lyrics:

“I eat Chinese food on Christmas.

Go to the movie theater, too.

‘Cause there just ain’t much else to do on Christmas

When you’re a Jew!”

(Check out the full video here: http:///www.youtube.com/watch?v=dukfZs3RGhw)

Recognizing an opportunity to celebrate this great Jewish tradition of Christmas and Chinese food, the JMM devoted our annual Christmas Day bash to Chanukah, Christmas, and Everything Chinese. On Sunday, December 25, nearly 260 people joined us for festivities that featured Chinese food, games, and crafts. Guests of all ages enjoyed sampling Chinese treats (generously provided by David Chu’s China Bistro) as they gathered around card tables for competitive games of mahjong, another treasured Jewish pastime with Chinese roots, and Chinese checkers.

We even offered lessons, courtesy of Lois Madow, president of the American Mah-Jongg Association, for people interested in learning how to play. (For a comprehensive list of mahjong rules, check out http:///www.mahjong.net/mahjong-rules/) Several of my colleagues and I sat in on a lesson, and while I can’t say we understand all the ins and outs of this complicated game (although by the end we could distinguish between a “bam” and a “crack”), we had a blast learning and are even planning a few lunchtime games to sharpen our skills.

In another corner of our lobby, children (and adults too) patiently learned the art of origami (visit www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origami for the Chinese connection with origami) as they folded decorated pieces of paper into intricate designs including swans, flowers, and dreidels (there’s the Chanukah tie in!)

Other craft activities included paper lantern making, Chinese fan decorating, and beading.

Visitors learned about the Chinese signs of the zodiac and even had the opportunity to find out their corresponding sign on the Jewish zodiac which features traditional Jewish nosh (chopped liver, egg cream, bagel, etc.) instead of animals.

In the end, a good time was had by all!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Jewish Party in the Park!

Posted on September 21st, 2011 by

A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Picnicking in Druid Hill Park

This past Sunday the Jewish Museum of Maryland participated in the first annual Jewish Party in the Park, a festival celebrating the Jews and Jewish organizations of downtownBaltimore. The party included live music, vendors, a children’s area, and even a shofar blowing flash mob.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland was both a partner and a vendor at the event. The education department had a booth in the children’s area where we did crafts related to the holiday of Sukkot. Elena and I were very enthusiastic about creating crafts related to stargazing and constellations since an important aspect of building a sukkah is being able to see the starts through the schach, the roof covering usually made of palm leaves, bamboo sticks, or other branches.

I made sure to take a lot of photos that day, so I’d like to share some of them with you.

One of the highlights of the children’s area was the bounce house. I was pretty set on bouncing it in myself but unfortunately I never made it inside.

The other major highlight in the children’s area (besides the JMM tent of course) was the balloon making demonstration by “Balloons by Jon”. Jon made a life sized princess and motorcycle out of balloons. It was very impressive.

Kayam farms had a tent where they taught visitors about Jewish agriculture, which included displaying live chickens. They also sold some of their produce. Elena and I purchased mini gherkins, perhaps my new favorite healthy treat.

At the JMM tent Elena, Deborah, Ilene, and I taught children and their families about the starrs and how they relates to Sukkot. We were  impressed by how much knowledge many of the children already had about the constellations and the sky.

Last but not least, one of my personal highlights of the day was that both Ilene Dackman-Alon and Amy Smith, two JMM staff members, brought their dog to the park! Jack and Floyd were adorable and definitely attracted many children to our tent.

Especially considering that this was the first Party in the Park I would call the event a success. I’m already looking forward to attending again next year.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland